Like any good Southern tradition, there are numerous people who want to claim ownership of the cold weather favorite Brunswick stew. Folks in Virginia and Georgia both claim to be the birthplace of this hearty winter stew and us North Carolina folks, for once, are happy just to enjoy the best of both worlds.
In Brunswick, Ga., a 25-gallon iron pot on St. Simons Island declares the region as the original founder, noting that the pot on display was used to first cook up some stew in 1898. In Brunswick County, Va., however, the credit goes to chef Jimmy Matthews who supposedly created the original batch in 1828.
The one thing we can safely assume is that North Carolina, smack dab in the middle of the debate – quite literally – is the one that reaps the benefits. Throughout North Carolina, on any given winter weekend, there are signs promoting a Brunswick stew fundraiser of one kind or another. One group, the Elon Exchange Club, has gained fame for cooking up about 1,000 quarts each February with London broil, turkey and a variety of vegetables.
The recipes are as varied as the fundraisers and restaurants that serve it. The basics, corn and lima beans, are always present, and the recipe is always tomato based. Some add celery, some do not. Some regions include okra, while others do not. And chefs use any variation of a number of meats. Traditional recipes drip with mentions of squirrels and rabbits and venison. Today’s Virginia recipes tend to lean toward chicken as the primary meat, while Georgia opts for pork and beef.
Along coastal North Carolina, of course, we love to add some good old fashioned Carolina barbecue. We love our corn and lima beans, but it’s not uncommon for people to toss in whatever leftover vegetables they have on hand. We also have a tendency to add a little heat.
With all these ingredients, one might think Brunswick stew is a challenge to make. It is not. Well – it doesn’t have to be. There are recipes that call for a long day of simmering meat in a slow cooker, and perhaps that is the way to get the best flavor. But there are also faster ways to get to the end result, especially if you have a barbecue restaurant nearby to pick up some port barbecue. We’ve included two recipes – one for those cooks who prefer to take the slow route, and another who want to enjoy the hearty flavor of Brunswick stew without all the wait.
Traditionally, the dish is served with hushpuppies or bread, which is great for sopping up anything left in the bowl.
- 8 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
- 1 pound stew meat (beef or pork), in large chunks
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 pound frozen white corn, thawed
- 20 ounces baby lima beans, thawed
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp prepared mustard
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
Brown chicken and stew meat on both sides in vegetable oil and simmer slowly, covered, over low heat for 30 minutes. In a separate pan, bring chicken broth, corn and lima beans to a boil and cook through. Add chicken, stew meat, vegetables in broth, tomatoes and spices to slow cooker. Stir to mix, reduce heat to medium high and let simmer for six hours, stirring occasionally. Shred chicken and stew meat just before serving.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 lb. pork barbecue, fully cooked.
- 1 lb. baby lima beans
- 1 lb. corn
- 6 medium potatoes, diced
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 2 4 oz. cans tomato paste
- ½ stick butter
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Texas Pete Hot Sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
Rinse the fryer and place in large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let cook one hour. When cooked, set aside. Add beans and corn to the pot. Peel and cut potatoes and add to pot. Add enough water to cover vegetables under cold running water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. While the vegetables cook, pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred into small pieces. Remove excess liquid once the vegetables are done, leaving just enough to reach the top of the veggie. Add tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, butter, Texas Pete, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Add chicken and stir well. Add pork barbecue. Add ketchup and stir well. Heat on medium, stirring often, until warmed through.